New Year, New Start: Making the Most of 2022

TIMEDecember 24, 2021

Here it comes again, another farewell to the old and a ringing in of the new, that day when we break out the calendar and fix our eyes on January 1, we dream our dreams, and possibilities seem within our grasp.

This is the season when we make our resolutions: to lose 20 pounds or work out at the gym four times a week. Some of us aspire to higher mountain peaks: to change our career, to move our families from the streets of San Francisco to a small town in Idaho, to serve on our county’s school board once we’ve stocked up on the requisite supply of aspirin.

For these vows to see the light of day, we have to dig into ourselves and draw on the necessary resolve to give them birth. A few of us might find it easy to fulfill these resolutions, but most will struggle in this war between aspiration and reality, battling that worst of enemies—ourselves. And many of us will finally throw up our hands in surrender and return to our old habits.

Interesting, isn’t it, that if we look at most of our resolutions, most of them have to do with self-improvement. We’re dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives, and we want to change.

This is a perfectly normal desire, and laudable.

But what if we devised other resolutions that might bring us pleasure by turning us away from the mirror of the self? And what if those same resolutions might make the world, even our small corner of it, a better place?

Call me Mr. Pollyanna, but here are some suggestions regarding our New Year’s promises that require little effort but promise great rewards.

Resolve to smile. The other day, I was driving down a street here in town when I saw a young woman walking on the sidewalk. I nodded and smiled. She nodded and smiled back. That brief link between us turned my day brighter, and I hope it did the same for her.

Resolve to acknowledge others. This one also takes just a few moments of your time. When you’re paying for that latte in your coffee shop, say hello to the kid who’s taking your money. Ask him how he’s doing. However transitory, these trivialities make for human connections.

Resolve to slow down. Instead of hustling past a co-worker in the hallway, why not stop and ask after her family? Instead of dashing out an email without a salutation, a wish for the recipient’s well-being, or a short farewell, why not take the extra few seconds to include these amenities?

We may be running a rat race, but we don’t have to behave like rats. Again, these few acts of politeness can make the other person feel appreciated and leave us in a better state of mind as well.

Resolve to say thank you. Recently in my public library, I was standing near the front desk waiting to check out some books. Ahead of me was a tall young man with dreadlocks talking to a petite, middle-aged librarian. They were discussing a book he wished to place on hold. When the conversation ended, he said, “Thank you, Miss Mary,” and left the desk.

I wanted to pin a medal on that guy’s chest. The kindness in his voice and that “Thank you” marked him as a gentleman.

Writer Henry James once remarked: “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Wherever and whenever possible in this New Year, let’s resolve to be kind and so, in turn, make the world itself a kinder place.

And if we do adopt such random acts of kindness as a New Year’s resolution, I’m confident we’ll find that we, too, will find ourselves transformed, happier in our own hearts and minds.

Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust on Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning as I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.